It didn't dawn on me until an hour or so after I woke up.
I was prepping relief notes, getting my gear together waiting on my relief. Then it hit me--after this hitch, I'll get home and unpack my bag for the last time as a field engineer. Maybe not permanently, maybe so...I don't know. But after almost a decade of chasing rigs, I'm trading in the gear for a desk, the steel toes for dress shoes and the coveralls and work shirts for "business casual."
Wow. Ten years in the field--a third of my lifetime--and moving "into the office." It was something I always told myself I wouldn't do. The field is where it's at. It's where everything HAPPENS. There really is no way to describe the sense of satisfaction when, at the end of the job, the drilling team has delivered quality wellbore. I know--it's goofy sounding--but there's something that I've always found rewarding about wading into it and going toe-to-toe with a force so much bigger than yourself. Then walking away knowing you won...it just never got any better for me. Some holes were easier than others. But it was the ones that left you dirty and sleep-deprived and feeling physically beat--when you TD'd and got casing down and the company man shook your hand before you got on the boat or the chopper and just said "good job"--those always gave me a grin.
It's going to be hard to replace the stories too. NOTHING ever goes completely perfectly while you're drilling. Sometimes it's a bonehead move you make on the surface--a bad decision, based on imperfect information--or just not knowing. Sometimes, it was knowing better and just not trusting your gut. And sometimes, the Earth just didn't want to give it up. "Fight that bitch," in the colloquialism. But there was always a good story to come out of it. Surely, they were the kind of stories you couldn't just tell anywhere, to anyone, since we speak a language that's so unique to the industry that few understand it. But they were great stories.
Which has caused me to wonder what kind of stories do office hands have to tell?
The drive home, for the first time, was kind of melancholy. Normally, I'm ready to go to work--and, after two weeks--most certainly ready to get home to the wife and kiddos. My hand-off took a long time this hitch. I sat there BSing for two hours on something that should have taken 30 minutes. This time too, I sat at the entrance to the location road for a few minutes and collected a few thoughts, wondering if I had forgotten anything, but mostly wondering about leaving this behind. The drive home, from some place that's hard to find on a map, seemed to go by really quickly.
On the advice of a friend, who grew up in the oilfield also, and who also traded in his gear for a desk, I'm going to keep my dirty hardhat somewhere I can see it every day, so I don't forget who I work for and where I came from. And there's this letter from my old man--he wrote it to me about ten years ago and I carried it with me for a long time--father/son advice about what I was getting myself into...but it read more like a "talking to" from an older driller to a worm that might have some promise.
I need to dig that out too.